The new NBA In-Season Tournament, which begins with the 2023-24 season, is underway. The first game of the tournament is a matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder, which will tip off this morning at Oklahoma City’s home, the Paycom Center. Currently, Golden State is in second place in the Western Conference (4-1) and Oklahoma City is in seventh place (3-2), which doesn’t mean much given how early in the season it is.

It’s a gap that could easily be flipped with back-to-back wins and losses. However, games with in-season tournament implications are different. In the in-season tournament, the 15 teams in each conference are divided into three groups of five teams, each playing four games per club. The Eastern and Western Conferences are split into six groups, with the first place finishers from each group plus the remaining teams with the best record in each conference playing a quarterfinal tournament.

All games except the finals will count toward the regular season standings, and with a tournament trophy and prize money on the line, expect fierce competition. Golden State and Oklahoma City will compete in Group C in the West against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs. It’s a great way to play a different competition without impacting the regular season too much.

The two teams are as different in terms of key players as they are in terms of team colors. Golden State is led by the franchise trio of Steph Curry (6’9″), Klay Thompson (6’9″), and Draymond Green (6’9″). They’ve won a lot of championships together, but due to their age, they’re not as highly regarded as they were in their prime.

Add to that veteran point guard Chris Paul (38‧183cm), who was acquired in exchange for the young Jordan Poole, and you have an aging team. But these four are veterans with more big-game experience than anyone else. Their colors are clear. Curry and Paul are still the masters of the game. Despite his advanced age, Curry is bombarding opponents from all directions with a tremendous amount of activity.

He’s currently averaging 31 points (4th overall), 3.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 5.6 3-pointers per game (45.9% success rate). Green is still showing the ability to defend and lead, and while Thompson isn’t quite the textbook 3-and-D player he once was, he’s shown flashes of his competitive nature with a dramatic game-winning shot in Sacramento.

Paul’s game is certainly down from his prime, but he’s still incredibly efficient when he’s getting the right amount of minutes. His direct offense (9.4 ppg) has certainly dulled, but he’s still got his trademark reads and passing touch (8.2 assists, 5th overall). His hands (1.6 steals per game) are still sharp enough to cut off the flow at the slightest hint of an opening.

Most importantly, Paul’s acquisition has been valuable for the Warriors, not only because it’s taken a huge load off Curry’s shoulders, but also because it’s given the team a sense of security in the absence of Curry or Green. Like any great point guard, Paul hasn’t even played a handful of games yet, but he’s been a part of Golden State since the beginning. 보스토토 도메인

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